Scent Semantics #7: BRILLIANCE

A couple of days behind the schedule (again), presenting the seventh episode of the collaboration of six bloggers: Portia (A Bottled Rose), Elena (The Plum Girl), Sheila (Alembicated Genie), Daisy (eau là là !), Old Herbaceous (Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities) and Undina (Undina’s Looking Glass). If some of the participating blogs are also running late, please keep checking (or even better – subscribe!): we all are trying not to skip the month.Scent Semantics Project Banner

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This month’s word is: BRILLIANCE

How difficult do you think it would be to persuade an average “civilian” consumer to buy a 50 ml bottle of perfume for $375 or even $195? With Chanel Chance at $90/50 ml and Dior J’adore at $112/50 ml (with 100 ml bottles for both being still under $200), I wouldn’t be too optimistic in my forecasts. And it seems even less probable for the younger generation who just recently graduated from BodyShop or Fresh perfumes.

And yet, they are buying those more expensive Heretic, By Killian and Tom Ford perfumes. Why? Because of the brilliance of the Sephora‘s Merchandising Department (or whatever it’s called there): they were the first who realized that first Millennials and now Generation Z customers, who prefer YouTube to blogs and Instagram and TikTok to YouTube, would rather spend $30-$75 on a 10 ml travel spray from a luxury brand than do research and commit to a larger bottle of perfume that would get a much better “per ml” ratio.

It is not a rant about a younger generation. I actually applaud Sephora for their input into proliferating interest in “used-to-be” niche perfumes in the masses. I know that these days all smart brands and retailers try to follow the suit, and finally, we started seeing more and more of what I for years called “perfumista-size” bottles. But no other single retailer has the same number of “travel” options as Sephora does. They didn’t focus on the sets of either the same perfume or a pre-selected combo (a complete waste of money – unless someone plans to split the set) or gift sets with both a full bottle and its mini travel companion (slightly more interesting if the mini size is added free to the full bottle price, and that full bottle can’t be bought somewhere else at a discounted price). Instead, they went directly to stocking up 200+ single travel bottles of 7.5-10 ml within a price range between $22 and $75. 

Even though I wasn’t their target audience, I benefited from that brilliant marketing plot: even knowing that the brand was leaving the US, I wouldn’t have bought a full bottle of this perfume. But with a cute 10 ml bottle for around $30 – how could I have resisted?

Atelier Cologne Iris Rebelle

Iris Rebelle by Atelier Cologne, created in 2018, with the notes Calabrian bergamot, orange blossom, black pepper, iris, lavender, May rose, white musk, guaiac wood and patchouli, is a nice addition to my collection. It is perfect if I’m in the mood for a short-lived scent (pleasant, mind you!) that I can either discreetly reapply in approximately an hour from that pen-like bottle that fits any purse or replace it with another scent without risking them clashing.

I’m not sure if Iris Rebelle is still available anywhere (other than from discounters), but if you need more information, see the review from Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle) that pushed me to try this perfume. But whatever you do, do not check Sephora’s  “Mini size” section for Fragrances: you might be blinded by the brilliance of the offered selection.


Image: my own


25 thoughts on “Scent Semantics #7: BRILLIANCE

  1. How brilliant from Sephora! I didn’t know that because Sephora pulled out of here a while ago, but the first time I get near their shop…this is what I’ll be looking for! Thanks for info.


    • I’m sure that in-store selection is less impressive than their online offerings (which is true these days for almost all stores), but still, they have a good choice of travel bottles.


  2. Am I first? Maybe. Woohoo!

    If I had a choice, unless I know I’m splitting, I certainly prefer the travel size even though it is usually more expensive per mL. You did well with Atelier Cologne as this is one of the few brands that does not penalize one from buying a smaller size. I have also bought travel sizes of full bottles I already own because: 1) They came after only the full size was available (hello Tom Ford) 2) They are absolutely more convenient.

    I know this was not the point of your Brilliance post but I also wanted to mention that at least one brand had a perfume that only came in a set of travel sizes – Diptyque Venise; perhaps there are others? I’m not quite enamored with this idea as you’re forced to get a whole set and maybe all you really need is one.

    And finally, with brands these days of launching multiple perfumes at the same time, offering a Discovery Set of 5-7mL each is a great way to try them all; I don’t mind paying more for something like this. Alas, in pursuit of the almighty $€£, these are not as popular but I’ve seen more of these lately.


    • You were the first until I found a pending comment :)

      While a single travel spray appeals more to me, I find interesting the approach that Hermès used to take when you could choose a set of the bottles you wanted to get (not sure if they still do it: the closedown one to me does by appointment only shopping, so I haven’t been to it in a while).


    • Ormonde Jayne still offers these from time to time. I just got a set of 5 of their UK dept. store exclusives in travel sizes and a couple of them are really nice- Muscat and Persica. Deelightful! Also I just found a lot of Ormonde Jayne’s on for the first time. The prices weren’t fabulous, but they were less then niche retail with the 30% off coupon they sent me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed your brilliant take on this topic! And I am at the stage in my hobby where a decant or travel size of 10ml or under is plenty, and am happy to pay a premium for this. Not familiar with Iris Rebelle, which has got me trying to recall the name of that other startlingly adjectival iris perfume – Not “Iris Impossible”, but something like that. Help me out? ;)


  4. I agree, the marketing of these travel sizes has been very clever! I like travel sizes and discovery sets, as they let me try lots of new things at a reasonable total cost (usually not cost/ml, as you note). I figure I’m paying for the novelty and the experiment! I like Iris Rebelle a lot: The sample I had inspired me to buy a full bottle when it went on sale online. Once I’ve determined that I like a fragrance a lot, it’s nice to be able to spritz away, especially now that I work remotely more than pre-pandemic. One silver lining of full-time remote work for over a year was that I wore a wider range of my fragrances and switched during the day more than I would when going to my office daily.


    • As I predicted back when you published that review, I didn’t need more. Though, I’m worried about not being able to get more of some other favorites from the brand if I decide to: I wonder if they will still be available in Europe and why did they leave the US.


  5. I’m not a big fan of travel atomizers in general, although sometimes they’re useful. They tend to be tall and skinny and thus hard to store, like decants, which I also don’t like. I much prefer a regular bottle of any size that will stand up solidly on my shelves. If I like a perfume enough to add it to my collection I want at least 30mls.


    • I store all bottles in their boxes, so it’s not an issue for me. And for decants I use special holders in the drawers where they are stored vertically. But I understand your approach.


  6. I’m a big fan of travel sizes. In fact I’m wearing my travel size of Iris Rebelle today! I have so many bottles (even so, less than many die hards and of course “influencers” who have hundreds of gifted bottles…) I am only one person and don’t have anyone to really share with, so the smaller size generally is enough for most perfumes. Another bonus of this push at Sephora is that most of these new products are coming in as sprays. It used to be mostly rollerballs – hated them.

    The real sweet spot for my taste might be 30ml – I wish there were more of these, particularly with the same bottle, just smaller.


    • When I posted my picture on Instagram, it happened to appear right above yours with the same perfume. Too bad I couldn’t take a picture of both of them at the same time ;)
      I like 30 ml “real” bottles: they are usually adorable!


  7. Aha! Undina, the brilliance of your post! I love Iris rebel and have a big bottle. First tried it at Selfridge & Co and of everything I tried that afternoon it was the standout.
    Yeah, the 10ml travel has taken over a couple of our chemists too. An excellent way to get my wallet out of my pocket.
    Portia xx


  8. I agree that Sephora’s plethora of travel sizes is pretty brilliant, but I guess I was thinking of scents that exude ‘brilliance’ on my skin. That usually involves some sparkling aldehydes like Chanel No. 5 and Chanel No. 57. Ormonde Jayne’s Osmanthus Elixir is pretty ‘brilliant’ to my mind as well. Such a stunning scent! I wasn’t even a big osmanthus fan before I sniffed the elixir but I fell in love with it at first sniff and I’m loving drowning myself in it now that I own a full bottle :-))


  9. Pingback: Fan di Fendi pour Homme – Undina's Looking Glass

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